Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Category: Ireland

The Night of the Big Wind



I had something all picked out for Picture Day today, but when I walked outside and saw this beautiful flower,  it changed my mind.  While in Ireland I bought a package of seeds from Kylemore Abbey, planted them and then forgot all about them.  Such a nice surprise to see them blooming today!

My mind and heart have been with Ireland all week.  With Ophelia bearing down on them, we spent Monday watching the news.  My niece Katy kept in touch with our tour guide Martin and his wife Maureen.  Martin was sweet enough to even come up with a comforting answer for our 6yr old.  Sean was very worried about what would happen to the sheep during the storm. Martin said they would be safe in “sheep houses”. While it probably wasn’t exactly true, Sean was happy with the answer.

If you have a few minutes please check out Ronan Burren’s Facebook group called Ireland’s Inner Beauty

He posts gorgeous videos from all around Ireland. However my favorite are the videos he posts from the local pubs.  They are of local musicians and are just perfect.  Of course I am biased but by far my favorite are the videos are from Cruises Bar in Ennis, County Clare and my favorite singer is Martin White.  Last night Ronan posted a video of Martin and Maureen. He talked about our time there – we are all extended family now!  I truly can’t say enough about how amazing our trip was and how welcome we felt.  

I am also attaching a link to a fascinating article I read about a destructive storm that hit Ireland in January 1839.  It must have been truly terrifying experience to those who lived through it.  Our McGee ancestor’s included, they were living in Donegal at the time of the storm. The night of the big wind.




Just a simple country road! Beara Pass


Going to Ireland has always been a dream of mine. My dad loved to listen to Irish music in his car. I vividly remember him singing along to “I’ll Take you Home Again Kathleen” and listening to him talk about taking my mother to Ireland. I found it terribly romantic – never mind that my mother, although named Kathleen was not even remotely Irish (she was 100% German).

My non-Irish mom did get to Ireland, but my sweet Dad never had the chance and I promised myself that I would go. Researching the Irish side of the my family only fueled my desire to make the trip. It was a long time in coming and after almost 2 years of seriously talking about it, planning and saving – it finally became a reality! Our group consisted of myself, my sister Eileen, my niece Katy, our 2 very good friends Karen and Patti.Group

We flew from Rochester to JFK and then on to Shannon. It was a long and cramped flight but as we got closer, we got more excited. I was a little disappointed to see heavy cloud cover that seemed to go on forever. As we finally broke through the clouds and got our first glimpse of Ireland – I was hooked. It was all at once familiar and completely new. It was also GREEN, brilliant, vibrant, gorgeous green.

We met our tour guide, Martin and headed out to start our adventure. We spent the next six days seeing some of the most incredible sights that I have ever seen. Every time it couldn’t get more beautiful, it did. Really, the words and pictures aren’t enough, it was just beautiful.

We saw the big sights, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey as well as some of the more out of the way spots. One of my favorites was a small perfumery located in the Burren – appropriately called The Burren Perfumery. They make their own perfumes as well as soaps, lotions, candles and teas. The garden is so peaceful and lovely, it was one of my favorite stops on the trip.

Martin bravely drove us up the Wild Atlantic Way, regaling us with stories and songs – I included a link to his family run tour company. If you are looking for a chauffeur driven small tour – this is the way to go. We spent a couple of nights in his hometown of Ennis, County Clare and met his lovely wife. We even went to his favorite pub for some Guinness. It is true that Guinness does taste better in Ireland!

One of the most interesting parts of traveling to almost anywhere in Europe is how people have adapted and modernized while still honoring the history of a place. I used to work at a living history museum where our oldest building was from 1798. In Ireland – that is fairly modern! The Pub that we went to in Ennis was called Cruises and featured local music nightly. The musicians played traditional instruments against a backdrop that made easy to believe that it we could have stepped back in time.

We were able to spend a day in Donegal, the county where the McGee’s came from. So far, I haven’t been able to find their town but just to even make it to Donegal was great. We visited a famine memorial and graveyard which was really just a grassy area that served as a burial site during the famine. There were no grave markers and no way to know who rested there. I did bring home some pebbles from Donegal and plan to take them to the graves of my McGee’s so they have a little bit of Donegal with them.

We left the safety of our tour guide after Donegal and took a train across the country to Dublin. The next several days were spent exploring the city. We stayed in Temple Bar – there was alway something going on!! My niece and I took a day trip to Northern Ireland and saw the Giant’s Causeway and braved the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I could probably write for days about how incredible that was!

While in Dublin I had the opportunity to meet with a genealogist. This was truly a highlight for me. He was lovely and very generous with his time. I didn’t find any earth shattering new information – but at least know that I am not missing anything either. It may be as far back as I am going to get with the McGee’s. It is ok with me – because I have plenty more to research and discover!! The Genealogist did give me a couple of ideas to try – they are long and pretty complicated but I am definitely going to work on them.

Some of the other highlights along the way included Killarney, Adare, Muckross House, Dingle Peninsula, Connor Pass, Connemara, Galway, and Sligo

Ireland exceeded every expectation that I had. It is a stunning place and hopefully this was just the first of several visits for me.

William and Sara McGee

William and Sara Malone McGee

William and Sara McGee

William was born in August of 1837 the 5th of 6 children of William and Margery McGee in County Donegal, Ireland.  William arrived with his mother and siblings in the United States in 1841.

Sara’s her parents were born in Ireland, she and her siblings were born in Niagara County. (Sara in 1844) It is possible that William and Sara’s father’s worked together on the Lock system in Western NY and that may be how the families met.  However they met, by 1850  the McGee’s and the Malone’s were living on nearby farms Perry, Wyoming County, New York. Perry was (and still is) a small rural community.

The two families were very well acquainted – William and his brother (Michael) both married Malone girls. The two sets  of siblings went on to live on neighboring farms for many years.  William and Sara were married in July of 1868. Their first child Mary Elizabeth “Libbie” was born in 1869, followed by Martha “Mattie” in 1869, finally son William was born in 1876.  The 1900 census shows that Sara had 4 children, 3 of whom were living. The following is an excerpt about the family written by Angie McGee in 1929.

William and Sara were quietly wed

July 3rd I think ‘twas said

Their life was wrapped up in one son and two daughters

And lived on a farm in comfortable quarters

Libbie, the eldest, so gentle and sweet (Mary Elizabeth)

Awaits in the promised land, her loved ones to meet.

Martha Theresa with eyes of brown

Married a farmer in Eagletown

For years her pies and cookies were of the best

Her bread, I know, has stood the test

But now to antiques both new and old

She has turned her attention or so I am told.

If it is a house or farm you wish to see

Consult our good agent, W.G. McGee

Bargains of the best are sure to be had

(I’ll call in tomorrow and collect for this ad).”


The idea of William and Sara living next to their siblings just makes me happy.  I love to imagine them spending time together and helping each when needed.  I imagine all of the cousins growing up and getting into mischief together.  The families were married within 3yrs of each other and all the children were fairly close in age, they both had 2 daughters and 1 son. Being a farming family was no easy job in the mid to late 1800’s. It involved  nearly constant back breaking work, I like to think that living so close to each other helped lighten the load.

Sara died in 1905 of pneumonia, William died just eleven months later at his home at the age of 69 of heart disease.  William’s Obituary in part is as follows:

Mr. McGee was born in Ireland and came to this country, when a mere child, with his parents and nearly his entire life has been spent in this immediate vicinity, becoming a prominent and successful farmer and an honored man in the community, kind and thoughtful in his family where he will be greatly missed. On July 5, 1868, he was married to Sarah A. Malone, who preceded him to the Better Land, eleven short months ago, and whom he greatly missed.

Mary Elizabeth “Libbie” married Edward Dillon and together they had 5 children; Martha, Florence, Edward, Bernice, and Doris.  Libbie died in 1912 and Edward in 1938. I haven’t had much luck tracking down more on this branch – but will keep at it.

Martha “Mattie” married her farmer from Eagletown,  James Simons in 1908. Mattie was 35 when she married James, he was 40 and was a widower. Mattie and James had one son, James. Mattie was known for her baking, she died in 1946. James died in 1931.  One of the McGee cousins that I have discovered in the last year is from this branch.  She works at the church where the majority of the McGee’s are buried.  We had been emailing back and forth for a while when she mentioned that her Grandmother was a McGee!

William George or WG was a real estate agent in Warsaw, NY. He married Maude Crawford and they raised a large family; 4 daughters and 4 sons. Marjory, Mary, William, Charles, Elizabeth “Betty”, Richard, and Maurice “Mike”.  There are many mentions of the family – especially of the boys playing sports for Warsaw over the years.  At some point I will do some more detailed work on this branch.  One interesting thing I did find is that Mike married a woman who became a NYS Senator from Cattaraugus County.

William and Sara’s branch has been fun to research and write about. I am hoping to have some more information and maybe some pictures to add soon. The McGee son’s have been very generous in giving information, The two McGee daughter’s – Ellen and Nancy are another story.  I haven’t been able to find a whisper of them except for census records while they lived at home.  There is record of them coming to the United States, and on the 1850 census, after that they disappear.  Angie McGee’s wonderful poem – which has given me so much information it rather mysterious when it comes to Ellen and Nancy. She says:

The history of Nancy and Ellen I will not try

I’ll leave it to others who can do better than I.”

For now it is time to take on another branch of the McGee’s. I am going to work on my direct line – William’s brother John.  Most of the McGee’s cousins that I have met are also from this line.    



McGee Family Tree

Mary Angela McGee, Poem, November 16, 1929. [The location of the original poem is unknown. Copy from Michael McGee].

Year: 1850; Census Place: Perry, Wyoming, New York; Roll: M432_617; Page: 271A; Image: 181

Year: 1860; Census Place: Perry, Wyoming, New York; Roll: M653_883; Page: 625; Image: 169; Family History Library Film: 803883

Year: 1870; Census Place: Perry, Wyoming, New York; Roll: M593_1119; Page: 267B; Image: 58724; Family History Library Film: 552618

Year: 1880; Census Place: Perry, Wyoming, New York; Roll: 948; Family History Film: 1254948; Page: 221D; Enumeration District: 208; Image: 0445

Year: 1900; Census Place: Perry, Wyoming, New York; Roll: 1179; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0129; FHL microfilm: 1241179

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918; Collection Number: G&M_13; Roll Number: 13;

In my Own Backyard

The McGee’s have proven to be very difficult to to research. In fact I had been working on them more than a year ago and was so frustrated I walked away for a little while.  Now that we are planning a trip to Ireland I decided to give it another go.  They have been far more cooperative this time around!  Thanks in large part to Ancestry DNA and my new found McGee cousins several key pieces of the puzzle fell into place.  In fact I discovered yet another new cousin this week – she works for the church in Warsaw where so many of our McGee’s are buried. My plan is to write biographies for the 1st generation of McGee’s and their families.  Our common ancestors are William and Margery McConnell McGee. They came to the US in the early 1840’s with their children.  I have put together a listing of their children and families and that is what I am working from.

One of my biggest mysteries has been what happened to William and Margery.  I know they were born in the early 1800’s in Ireland. All signs point to the family coming from Northern Ireland – possibly Donegal.  I have found Margery and the children on a Ship’s manifest arriving in 1841.  Still trying to figure out when William came over – probably earlier.  However I haven’t been able to find out when they died or where they were buried.  Believe me when I say that I have looked really hard for that information..I have scoured as much information from Wyoming County, NY as possible.  I have been to numerous cemeteries, contacted churches, and gone to the County Historian’s office and found nothing.  Another lingering mystery was their son Bernard. I kept finding information about a Bernard McGee buried in my hometown of Batavia. The dates were not quite right and Batavia is about 40 miles away from where he lived.  That is a significant distance in the 1860’s.  


So this week my niece I and went to St Joseph’s Cemetery in Batavia (Genesee Co).  If I said that she was a willing participant that wouldn’t exactly be true!  Glad she gave in and came along because we had a blast.  We found Bernard’s grave and the dates that were listed on line were wrong and the actual dates on the headstone fit a whole lot better!  The really big surprise is that after poking around for a while we discovered a headstone right in front of Bernard’s that said William McGee! Turns out that it isn’t William’s headstone but his wife Margery.  I don’t even want to tell you how long it took us to figure that out!!! In our defense the stone is faded.  Next week I will contact the church and hopefully get some more information.  There are a few open spaces right around them, hoping that I will have finally discovered William.  We still don’t know why they are buried so far away from where they lived. This mystery that has been so frustrating was solved in my own backyard!
William McGee(1803 ish) married Margery McConnell (1803 ish-1864) both born in Ireland


  1. John McGee (1827-1905)
  2. Bernard McGee (1931-1864)
  3. Michael McGee (1832-1894)
  4. Ellen McGee (1834-?)
  5. William McGee (1837-1906)
  6. Nancy McGee (1842-?)


1.John McGee m. Catherine Gill (1830-1908)

Children: William (1856-1926) m. Martha Flynn *my branch

                    Catherine McGee O’Melia (1858-1919)

                     Mary McGee (1860-1919)

                     Ella McGee Derrick (1862-1897)

                      John B McGee (1863-1932) m. Mary Agnes McGinn and Mary Ellen Murphy


2. Bernard McGee m. Maria Fitzgerald (1832-?)

    Children: Mattie McGee m. William Donahue

                        Nellie McGee (1862-1948)


3.Michael McGee m. Mary (1840-1911)

   Children: Mary Angela McGee “Angie” (1866-1942)

                       George McGee (1870-1939) m. Ida Lemmon

                       Charles McGee (1873-1904)

4.  Ellen McGee (1834-?)

5. William McGee m. Sara Malone (1845-1905)

      Children: Mary E McGee (1869-1912) m Edward Dillon

                         Martha McGee (1873-?) m. James Simon

                         William G McGee (1876-1933) m. Maude Crawford

  1. Nancy McGee (1842-?)


A Change in Focus




My sister and I had the opportunity to visit Germany last spring.  It was a life altering trip for me.  I learned a lot about myself, mostly that I am braver than I thought.  We stayed with a relative for several days but were on a own quite a bit too, we went from Germany to France and then to Great Britain on our own.  You know what? We did it, we navigated through foreign countries on our own and it was an amazing experience.  We stood in Medieval towns and were staggered by unbelievable age of things, built so long ago and yet still standing in front of us.

We had the good fortune to be in contact with a German relative who also had been doing genealogy for years.  She also is a tour guide – a pretty great combo!  We had met several times before our trip, she had even stayed with my mom for a few days. I am so thankful they had the opportunity to meet.

Going to Europe had been a lifelong dream for me.  When the chance came around, I grabbed it.  Sure it cost money I could have saved, and it was more difficult to plan for the kid’s schedules that it was to plan for 10 days in Europe… but it was also the trip of a lifetime and the fulfillment of a dream.  Simply put, I am so glad I did it.

We met some wonderful people while there. In Germany we were lucky enough to be introduced to several family members, most didn’t’ speak English and we only knew a tiny amount of German but somehow it worked and we really didn’t have any trouble communicating.  We were welcomed in many homes as strangers and left as family.  We even made a local newspaper, with an article and pictures!

While I fully expected to love our journey, I hadn’t fully understood  how strongly it would feel. When our cousin took us to the town that my  great grandfather came from, I was completely blown away. My great grandfather was born in the 1850’s and 1881 left for the United States by himself.  The house he was born in stood right next door to the church. Names of several young men from our family were carved into a WWI memorial at the church. The church stood nearly exactly as it had then.  As I stood in the church it all hit me, he existed, he stood in this place, he looked at the very things I was seeing.  It hit me so hard, I almost needed to sit down.  It was right in front of me, I could see my great-grandfather and his family walking next door to worship, being a part of this community in this tiny Bavarian town.  I couldn’t help but wonder what made him leave this beautiful place and how it must have felt to go from this place to New York City alone and make a completely new life for himself.  Bravery, perseverance, a bit of stubbornness? I will never know but I do know that I felt so strongly connected to him at that moment.  It was one of the most incredible, unforgettable experiences of my life.  When we went to the church and home of my great grandmother I was a little more prepared but still blown away.  Her family also lived next door to her church. The current owners of the house came out and spoke with us, amazingly they remembered the family!

So, all that being said, I am going to shift my focus to my Irish side of the family. I am by no means done with my German research but have to give some love to my Irish.  My Dad’s side of the family is Irish – McGee and McVay.  I only ever met 1 relative of my Dad’s, his uncle, my great uncle Wayne. He was ancient when I was little but very knowledgeable about our family history.  I was never very interested as a kid but man, what I would give to be able to talk to him today.  From what I have been able to find out so far the family history is rich and deep and sometimes very sad.  They took pictures and played, wrote poems, worked hard and lived with dignity sometimes in the face of tragedy.  Recently I had the great luck of finding McGee cousins.  Actual living relatives from my Dad’s side!!  They recently sent me pages and pages of handwritten family history – it was better than Christmas!!!

I am really looking forward to sharing the stories of this side of the family.  This is all leading up fulfilling another dream – to visit Ireland.  This trip is still a year off but the planning is fully underway.  My sister and I along with 2 funny, amazing women are planning, plotting and saving our pennies to make it happen.  There will be a lot of laughing on this trip!!!I don’t know that I will be able to match the personal connection of Germany but I do know that I can’t wait to see what we discover.

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